The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Dear Friends,

We thought you might find this message from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman regarding an historic day in the struggle for human rights and workers’ rights.  In these times when rights are under attack, we join with Attorney General Schneiderman in hoping for the better days … and in the struggle to make sure that they arrive.  In many ways, March 25, 1911, was the beginning of the second American Revolution — the revolution that brought our nation to its position of leadership in the world.

Arthur Z. Schwartz, President, Board of Directors

Chris Owens, Executive Director



March 25, 2011

Dear Chris,

One hundred years ago today a devastating fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. The fire spread with shocking speed through the overcrowded and poorly ventilated building and 146 workers, mostly young women, lost their lives. A century later, this tragedy stands as a reminder that legal protections and workplace safety standards were won through a long struggle for social justice and at great human cost.

As I wrote in today’s Daily News, the lessons of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire have been lost on many of my colleagues in government. Over the last decade, progress has slowed and, in many states, workers' rights have been seriously weakened. In Wisconsin, we are seeing a radical assault on employee protections, which 10 years ago would have seemed unimaginable in its scope.

And right here in New York, farmworkers and other low wage workers are struggling in conditions not much safer or fairer than the sweatshops of 1911.

As Attorney General, my most important responsibility is keeping New Yorkers safe by enforcing the laws that protect our people from harm. But another fundamental part of my job is to seek to advance the basic American principle of equal justice under law.

Both of these goals can be achieved by ensuring safe and fair working conditions for all New Yorkers. To truly honor the memories of those who lost their lives a hundred years ago today, we can't afford to wait another century to get it right.


Eric Schneiderman